Leeds’s first punk band, The Expelaires, are celebrating their 40th birthday this year.
We caught up with original members Paul ‘Grape’ Gregory and Dave Wolfenden along with newer additions Martin Aylward and Karl Hockless for a chat about their beginnings and what they are doing for their birthday celebrations.
The first gig they played was at the F-Club in Chapeltown in 1978. The F-Club, run by John Keenan, was very much part of the bands make-up. The founding members recalled being influenced by the bands they saw playing, including the infamous Sex Pistols gig. Regular appearances followed and they developed a reputation for being the F-Club’s house band.
The band recall meeting for rehearsals where songs were thrashed out at “welding volume” in their early days. Recorded output was limited to a couple of singles ‘and a session for John Peel. The Expelaires are an important link between the F-Club punk scene and Leeds’s prolific post-punk era with founder members moving onto The Sisters Of Mercy/The Mission (Adams), Red Lorry Yellow Lorry (Wolfenden) and 300 Revs/Grooving With Lucy (Gregory). This led to a hiatus for The Expelaires until 2013 when they reformed.
The early years are spoken about with great fondness and they cite the commitment fans used to have to track down gigs and purchase music in a pre-internet era. Scouring pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post, Sounds and NME for news of bands and gigs required more effort than today where information is pushed via internet invites.
The current band are moving with the times though, and now develop their music by swapping ideas and tracks over the internet before getting into a room and thrashing them out. This had led to them finally releasing recorded output with the ‘Sick Of Lies EP’ (2014) and their debut album ‘Feedom’ (2016).
Thirty-eight years for their debut album is pretty impressive, even by Leeds bands standards. The new material retains the gritty edge that characterised their early sound and fits neatly into live sets. The band recognise that the world is facing similar challenges now to when they were formed and songs like ‘Nasty Media’ are as applicable today as they were 40 years ago.
You can catch The Expelaires, for their birthday celebrations, at Bellis Fest on July 21 at Brudenell Social Club, along with Titans Troubadours, Brooders and Blind Dead McJones.